I found this short docu to be quite interesting, not because I am such a fan of this style of painting, but because it raised a lot of questions, hearing the artist Wang Qing Ho talk about his work…
The concepts and principles he talks about and which are typical for Chinese painting are things which interest me a great deal: the calligraphical nature of these paintings and the emphasis on composition, the disregard for accurate representation of subject matter, the tension between observation at one hand and working from memory rather than on the spot, on the other.
But despite these interesting theoretical underpinnings, the actual result of the work is, to me, very often disappointing…
The result seems to me to always be “another Chinese painting”. Something I would be able to see in any book on Chinese painting. And while Wang Qing Ho talks about individual expression as something he puts great value in, I don’t see this reflected in his work.
Perhaps I am being unfair in my judgment? Perhaps it is my own inability to see these paintings in the context of their tradition which leads me to these conclusions? Perhaps it is simply because I am not familiar enough with Chinese painting which makes them look “all the same” to me? Or perhaps I can not see them but from a “western” point of view?
Of course I can see the great amount of skill the artists has in handling the brush. But skill in itself is not what makes a painting.
Now, somewhere in the docu the artist says that people often ask him how to better be able to appreciate Chinese paintings. His answer is that they should just look better. I think that is a cop out.
When someone is unfamiliar with art (or music, or architecture, or literature, or whatever…), he is not able to “see” (hear, read,…) what there is to be seen. He is not attuned to the signals the work is sending out. He simply doesn’t know what to look for. He will perhaps see there is a cute cat in the picture and therefor say it is a nice picture, but he will not notice how the composition could have been better or the colors could have been less muddy. It is only when someone more knowledgeable points out these things, perhaps even shows examples of a better composition or more vibrant use of color, that one can begin to “see”, and discover qualities which before remained unnoticed..
Therefor, simply saying you should look “better” is too easy. It only reinforces the pseudo-mysticism in which so many artists like to shroud themselves. “You either see it, or you don’t see it and if you don’t, well….bad luck.”
I think it’s a pity the artist in this docu didn’t take some more time to point out to us some of the things which are probably invisible to our western eyes if no one reveals them to us.
Check out the video. Take a look for yourself and hear what Wang Qing Ho has to say. If you want, let me know what you think about all this in the comments…